Tag Archives: franco nero

Water Foul: The Shark Hunter

The Shark Hunter

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Today’s feature is a little-known Franco Nero movie from 1979: The Shark Hunter.

The Shark Hunter was written by a team that included Alfredo Gianetti (The Blue Eyed Bandit, Divorce Italian Style), co-producer Jaime Comas Gil (A Fistful of Dollars, Cabo Blanco), Tito Carpi (Escape from the Bronx), Jesus Folgar (Watch Out, We’re Mad) and Gisella Longo (Adam and Eve).

The director of The Shark Hunter, Enzo Castellari, was also behind a number of other low-budget Italian productions like The Last Shark, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Keoma, and The Inglorious Bastards.

The editor for the film was Gianfranco Amicucci, who also cut Keoma, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, and The Inglorious Barstards for Castellari.

The cinematographer on The Shark Hunter was Raul Perez Cubero, who accrued nearly 100 cinematography and director of photography film credits over his career.

The special effects in The Shark Hunter are credited to Alvaro Passeri, which is, according to IMDb, a pseudonym for producer and director Massimiliano Cerchi, who went on to create such films as Satan Claus and Hellbilly.

sharkhunter8The music for The Shark Hunter was composed by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, who contributed scores to a number of other low-budget features like The Last Shark, Keoma, and Alien 2: On Earth.

The cast of The Shark Hunter includes Franco Nero (Django, Massacre Time, Die Hard II, Omega Code 2), Werner Pochath (Flatfoot in Africa), Jorge Luke (Clear and Present Danger), and Michael Forest (Body of Evidence, Macross Plus, Big O, Mobile Suit Gundam F91).

The reception to The Shark Hunter online is mixed: it currently has a 5.0 rating on IMDb and a 67% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it is certainly not well known, and both of those numbers come off of very small sample sizes.

I usually don’t cover movies that I can’t understand. However, I decided to give this a shot at this one with translated YouTube subtitles. The results were less than stellar.

sharkhunter2 sharkhunter3 sharkhunter4 sharkhunter5 sharkhunter6In spite of the language barrier, I was still able to piece together the gist of the story. Franco Nero stars as a mysterious professional shark hunter with a hidden criminal past, who has taken up on a remote island after the death of his wife. He becomes engulfed in a wild treasure hunt when word starts to spread about a downed aircraft just off shore with a massive load of cash. All of the forces need his input because of his expertise as a shark hunter (the waters around the wreck are infested with sharks), and for his criminal prowess. This places him in the middle of a dangerous web of violent and greedy individuals that start to appear on the island.

The Shark Hunter takes a while to get going, but the last third of the movie is pretty much non-stop. Once all of the invested parties are established and the treasure heist is planned, everything heats up pretty well: there’s a pretty decent boat/plane chase, a bunch of alarmingly realistic shark wrestling. and Franco Nero wearing what I assume is the most ridiculous wigs ever to grace a film. As badass as Nero is throughout the film, that wig of blonde, flowing locks still looks absolutely ludicrous, and steals the show most of the time.

sharkhunter7As I mentioned previously, there are a number of sequences in this movie where Franco Nero’s stunt double (I assume) actually wrestles a goddamn shark in the water. I was worried that the movie was about to turn into an unintentional remake of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, and I’m actually curious as to how they pulled all of the shark wrestling off. Some years earlier, Samuel Fuller had similar stunts in his film Shark! that utilized live, sedated sharks, which tragically resulted in the death of one of the film’s stuntmen. I’d like to think that they didn’t do the same thing here.

sharkhunter1I kind of like the plot to this movie (at least the bits that I could understand), and appreciated the way that the crime and heist aspects played into the adventure setting. It made for an interesting sort of genre-bender that took notes from all across the board, synthesizing into something that felt unique.

Overall, this isn’t a particularly awful film, but it certainly isn’t high quality, and suffers from an obviously shoe-string budget. The beginning is far too slow, but the conclusion pretty much makes up for the weaknesses of the first act. The shark wrestling is kind of nerve-wracking because you have to assume that the stunt people were actually in significant danger, which adds an extra element to the movie (for better or worse). I would love to find a legitimately subtitled or dubbed copy of The Shark Hunter, because it was kind of a struggle to get through with the nonsense translations, but it was still compelling enough to get me through it.

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Enter The Ninja

Enter The Ninja

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Today’s feature is a true cult classic, and the first installment in the infamous Cannon Group ninja trilogy: “Enter The Ninja.”

The story of “Enter the Ninja” was originated by Mike Stone, who was initially intended to play the lead in the movie. Ultimately, he acted as the film’s stunt coordinator and Franco Nero’s double after it was discovered that he wasn’t particularly good at acting. The screenplay credit is given to a man named Dick Desmond, who notably has no other writing credits.

“Enter the Ninja” was directed by one of the heads of Cannon Films, Menahem Golan. Initially, he was only slated to produce the flick, but ended up firing the original director, Emmett Alston, after only a handful of days of shooting.

entertheninja6The music on “Enter the Ninja” was provided by the team of W. Michael Lewis and Laurin Rinder, who previously worked together on the holiday-themed horror movie “New Year’s Evil.” Both returned to work together again on “Revenge of the Ninja,” the second in the Cannon ninja trilogy.

The special effects for “Enter the Ninja” were provided by Ben Otico, who worked as an art director and special effects technician on a number of exploitation films throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including “Women in Cages,” “Black Mamba,” and “She Devils in Chains.”

David Gurfinkel served as director of photography for the film, a fellow who would go on to work on such treasures as Sylvester Stallone’s “Over The Top,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III,” “America 3000,” and “American Samurai.” His previous credit to “Enter the Ninja” was another notorious Cannon film also helmed by Menahem Golan, the bizarre musical “The Apple.” He also returned for the second film in the ninja trilogy, 1983’s “Revenge of the Ninja.”

“Enter the Ninja” was one of the first films to come out of Cannon after its acquisition by the Israeli cousins Menahem Goram and Yoram Globus, who led the company into a sort of renaissance of b-pictures and knock-offs from 1980 to 1994. The names “Goram and Globus” are now instantly synonymous with their low-budget 1980s movies, many of which have become treasured cult classics (including the ninja trilogy, which began with “Enter the Ninja”).

Franco Nero, who is best remembered as the original Django, was brought in at the last minute to star as the film’s lead. Because of his character’s American background, all of his dialogue was ultimately dubbed over. Sho Kosugi stars as Nero’s rival (the black ninja) in his first major film role, and is one of the only elements to remain throughout the Cannon ninja trilogy. Sho was also notably a real martial artist, and not only performed his own stunts, but also filled in as an extra ninja during the movie’s opening sequence. The main bad guy of the film is played by Christopher George (“Fantasy Island”), who unfortunately died just a couple of years later in his early 50s. Susan George (“Straw Dogs”) plays Nero’s love interest and inevitable kidnapping victim in the movie. The accessory cast includes Zachi Noy, Constantine Gregory, and Michael Dudikoff in a minor background role, who would later star in a film greatly influence by “Enter The Ninja”: “American Ninja.”

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The story of “Enter the Ninja” follows an American war veteran who travels to Japan to master ninjitsu. After completing his training, he decides to visit a companion from his military days in the Philippines, which winds up entangling him in a bloody local conflict with a criminal land developer.

“Enter the Ninja” was filmed almost entirely on location in the Philippines, which pitted the cast and crew against oppressive natural elements: namely the weather and a variety of exotic animals. Further, the combination of nationalities in the cast and crew meant that at least three languages were regularly used on set, creating a peculiar communication situation.

“Enter the Ninja” received its title, predictably, because of the massive popularity of the 1973 Bruce Lee move “Enter the Dragon,” which was a significant financial success.

The memorable final ninja battle of “Enter the Ninja” was filmed in an actual cock-fighting arena located in the Philippines, which provides a spectacular and symbolic backdrop for an epic one-on-one battle to the death.

The nine levels of power featured in “Enter the Ninja” are a form of kuji, which are mantras used as a sort of meditation practice. The specific ones featured in the film were written about by the American ninjutsu master Stephen K. Hayes in his book “Warrior Ways of Enlightenment.”

“Enter the Ninja” is undoubtedly a cult classic among martial arts movies, and beloved by many. That said, it is also very much a low quality movie that didn’t exactly pop up on critics’ radars. It currently holds a somewhat harsh 4.9 rating on IMDb, which doesn’t accurately represent how treasured the film. Still, it is hard to argue that the film is “good” in any conventional sense of the term.

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I wasn’t able to dig up any financial details on “Enter the Ninja,” but presumably it made a significant amount of money on a rather low budget, given its popularity and the eventual sequels.

“Enter the Ninja” is certainly deserving of a lot of criticism. Why does Nero wear an entirely white ninja outfit, when the entire point of the art is stealth? It was certainly a decision made for the case of style over common  sense, but it is no less preposterous for it. The film is also rife with continuity errors, awful acting, and the (of course) distracting dubbing over Franco Nero’s lines. Even the casting of Franco Nero to begin with was a baffling decision made more for convenience than sensibility: he was brought in only because he was in the area, and Golan needed an actor to fill in the lead role after Stone proved to be a truly awful actor. Speaking of which, how bad must Stone have been that having an entirely dubbed-over Franco Nero was a better option?

Personally, there were a lot of things that I liked about this movie. I particularly love the primary villain death via ninja star, which ends in a sort of confused shrug that has become infamous. The final Sho/Nero fight scene in the cockfighting ring is also pretty fantastic and entertaining to watch. Even the secondary villains are fun and unique: the hook-handed enforcer is immensely entertaining, as is the excessively polite and proper Mr. Parker. For all of the issues with the film, there are a whole lot of memorable moments and characters that have stuck with me.

entertheninja4Overall, I think this movie is a whole lot of fun, though it may very well be the least entertaining of the Cannon ninja trilogy. I think that statement is more of a credit to the sequels than it is a discredit to “Enter the Ninja,” but I suppose that is very much up to interpretation. In any case, this is definitely worth watching for martial arts movie fans or bad movie aficionados. If multi-colored ninja battles and awful acting are up your alley, this is a flick worth checking out.

Bargain Bin(ge): May 2014

Welcome to the latest installment of Bargain Bin(ge)! I spend a lot of time in the bargain bins of used DVD shops all over the country looking for potentially forgotten or overlooked cinematic atrocities, and I document all of the highlights here.

Today I’m featuring a spectacular failure to adapt a popular (and personally beloved) anime to film, a local 80s movie that has rightfully been forgotten to time (but “launched” a lauded film career), a low-budget deep-sea creature-feature, and a Lucio Fulci “Django” knock-off. Let’s get started!

G-Saviour

I am a huge fan of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” anime franchise, and have been for well over a decade. That said, I have been aware of this live action stinker from 2000 for quite some time. Like most Gundam fans, I try to pretend it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, it does, and I found it in a bargain bin just a couple of weeks ago while I was on a business trip. I’ve never watched it before, but just from the trailer I can tell that this is going to be a painful experience. I think there should just be a standing policy that anime shouldn’t be translated into live action unless someone really knows what they are doing. Director Graeme Campbell still does a fair number of made-for-TV movies and work on various series, but it doesn’t seem that he’s been able to cut it in the big time. Likewise, the writers have credits on Sci-fi shows like “Mutant X” and “Tripping the Rift”, but not much else to speak of. A number of the actors have gone into voice acting or B-level TV and movie work, which are the most successful stories to come out of “G-Savior”.

For those unaware, the “Mobile Suit Gundam” franchise has a following in Japan not unlike “Star Wars” does here. It is absolutely huge, and has been consistently produced in one form or another since the original series debut in 1979. A number of the series were cut in order to be released theatrically in segments, and are actually pretty impressive. So, to have a live action “Gundam” whiffed on so badly was a huge disappointment.

Realistically, you just couldn’t do a convincing mech live-action movie until pretty recently. Stuart Gordon’s “Robot Jox” in 1989 wasn’t quite impressive enough with audiences, and that was the best mech movie on the table for decades. With the recent successes of “Pacific Rim” and (ugh) “Transformers”, I’m curious if we’ll see someone pick up the baton and try another go at “Gundam” on the big screen in the not-too-distant future.

Space Camp

This one is a bit of a local stinker. Filmed on location in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space and Rocket Center, the whole film oozes the essence of the 1980s, including featuring an unnecessary robot companion a la “Rocky IV”. Both of the screenwriters have almost no other credits before or after this, outside of a couple of unimpressive Christian movies. Director Harry Winer has done a fair amount of TV work in the decades since this film, but never managed to break out in films (I expect for good reason). Proving that some were capable of getting away from this beast with a successful career, this was cinematic debut of Academy Award nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix. How about that? The cast also includes such sort-of notable names as Kelly Preston, Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, Terry O’Quinn, and Tom Skerritt, who have all had at least respectable acting careers. I’m mostly just looking forward to that good ol’ child acting from Joaquin Phoenix. Here’s a taste:

Oh my fuck.

The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues

To give you a sense as to how successful this movie was, director Dan Milner only directed one more movie after this feature (of his three total), and then concluded his career as an editor for “Popeye the Sailor Man” and “Bozo: The World’s Most Famous Clown”. So, it didn’t exactly take off. However, this lowest-of-the-low B-movie supposedly has a lot of entertainment value to it, along the lines of a Roger Corman flick. I’m always on board for a cheap monster movie, so I’m hoping this has promise.

Massacre Time

Ah, Franco Nero. What a beautiful, beautiful man. I’ve talked about him way, way back when I covered “Django (1966)”, but haven’t really come across him since then. However, he is in “Omega Code 2”, so the isn’t the last I’ll see of the gorgeous original Django. As for “Massacre Time”, this flick came out stateside in 1968, despite being made in 1966. Directed by infamous filmmaker Lucio Fulci, who would a decade later film a zombie fighting a shark in his notorious cult classic “Zombie”, and written by prolific Italian filmmaker Fernando Di Leo, this movie looks as spaghetti as spaghetti movies get. As you would expect given the success of “Django”, this movie was sold and distributed as a clone/knockoff to play off of Nero’s leading role in the film. The movie even went by such names as “Django: The Runner”, “Django: Der Hauch des Todes”, and “Djangos seksløber er lov” in various foreign markets. I’m quite looking forward to this one, and have my fingers crossed that it will be a good (massacre) time.